Call for fair, clean net-zero mining boom

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The mining industry has been urged to do more to stamp out corruption and respect land and water rights as it expands to meet global demand for critical minerals.


Limiting global warming to below two degrees is estimated to require a four-fold increase in the supply of minerals for clean energy technologies in coming decades.

Chair of the global Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, has used her keynote address at a prestigious mining summit to call for more accountability.

Amid the latest mining boom, she told the International Mining and Resources Conference in Sydney the key risk is around the awarding of mining licences, particularly when they are fast-tracked.

"Not to put too fine a point on it, bribes may be used to influence decision-making or preferential treatment can be given to politically connected companies," she said.

Ms Clark said most low-carbon technologies are using far more minerals than their fossil fuel counterparts.

A typical electric car requires six times the mineral inputs and an onshore wind farm requires nine times more mineral resources than a gas-fired power plant.

"The more ambitious the world is in its decarbonisation efforts, the more mining it's going to need," Ms Clark said.

But new research shows the scale of new mining needed for this important transition is pushing deeper into Indigenous lands and conservation areas, she warned delegates.

"Past mining booms do provide a cautionary tale," she said.

"Failure to tackle miners' governance challenges from increasing demand could harm resource-rich countries and become an obstacle to delivery of the energy transition in a just and sustainable way."

Imposing higher taxes and royalties brings in windfall revenue for governments but may deter longer term investment, the conference has been told.

Ms Clark said water issues will also arise, as many of the world's deposits are in areas of high water stress.

"Where mining has a negative impact on access to water, women and girls will suffer disproportionately," she said.

Such environmental and social sensitivities around mining are nothing new, but approving fast growth in key minerals could cause harm without safeguards, Ms Clark said.

More than 50 countries have agreed to the EITI standard, which is a common set of rules governing what should be disclosed about the granting of mining rights.

Procurement and commodity contracts are also at risk of dodgy dealing.

The standard aims to identify and stop corruption, not only in mining and fossil fuels but increasingly in the renewable energy sector.

But Australia is yet to sign up to the global standard.

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